There are few prospective studies on risk factors for health problems
after disasters in which actual pre-disaster health data are
To examine whether survivors' personal characteristics, and pre-disaster
psychological problems, and disaster-related variables, are related to
their post-disaster health.
Two studies were combined: a longitudinal survey using the electronic
medical records of survivors' general practitioners (GPs), from 1 year
before to 1 year after the disaster, and a survey in which questionnaires
were filled in by survivors, 3 weeks and 18 months after the disaster.
Data from both surveys and the electronic medical records were available
for 994 survivors.
After adjustment for demographic and disaster-related variables,
pre-existing psychological problems were significantly associated with
post-disaster self-reported health problems and post-disaster problems
presented to the GP. This association was found for both psychological
and physical post-disaster problems.
In trying to prevent long-term health consequences after disaster, early
attention to survivors with pre-existing psychological problems, and to
those survivors who are forced to relocate or are exposed to many
stressors during the disaster, appears appropriate.